Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin clearly doesn't want you to know which party she's in

Seriously, if you didn’t know already, after watching this ad, you’d have no idea that Representative  Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is a Democrat. “No matter which party is in charge, I do what’s right for South Dakota.” That’s the sound of selling out.

Welcome to the Terrordome

Sometimes, it’s a little hard to like Majority Leader Harry Reid. Okay, not sometimes: Often. Sure, once in a while he’ll accomplish the historic passage of a Republican health care bill, but, generally, he’s blasé at best and offensively useless at worst. Or maybe just offensive.

Offensive it is, again. Yesterday, in addressing the recent (cynical) outrage over the planning of an Islamic community center near the World Trade Center site, his spokesman, Jim Manley said, “The First Amendment protects freedom of religion. Senator Reid respects that, but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else.”

Built somewhere else, you say? Well, I’ll counter with this. No Mormon tabernacles should be built in or near Washington County, Utah. Washington County, see, was the site of the Mountain Meadows massacre, where Mormons, with help from American Indians, slaughtered betwee 120-140 men and women of the Fancher-Baker Party who were traveling from Arkansas to California.

The date of the massacre was September 11, 1857.

Before Americans hated Muslims, they hated Mormons, and before Mormons, they hated Catholics. Hell, even way before that, Presbyterians hated Anglicans, and Anglicans hated the Puritans. We have a long tradition of hating people of different faiths—and, being Mormon, Harry Reid should damned well know that.

Harry Reid had an opportunity and squandered the hell out of it. Rep. Keith Ellison, on the other hand, shows that Democrats could have seized this to show at least an iota of leadership (heretofore unknown to congressional Democrats):

“The truth is that we’re a party of principle. We believe in the idea of religious liberty.”

In 1773, a Baptist minister Isaac Backus wrote: “When church and state are separate, the effects are happy, and they do not at all interfere with each other: but where they have been confounded together, no tongue nor pen can fully describe the mischiefs that have ensued.”

Thomas Jefferson may be out of vogue in Texas educational circles, but in the  pantheon of the Founding Fathers, he cannot be ignored. And, he did famously write:

“Where the Preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word ‘Jesus Christ,’ so that it should read ‘a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion.’ The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.”

Way back in 2008, Colin Powell had quite a response when asked about then-Senator Barack Obama possibly being secretly a Muslim: “Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America.” That should have had the same stab-in-the-gut effect as your dad saying “I’m not mad, son, I’m disappointed.” But, for many—those without shame—it didn’t have any effect at all.

In the same way, folks screaming about the “GROUND ZERO OMG TERRORISM MOSQUE OMG 9/11 MOSLEMS,” need to step back and realize how un-American—how shameful—it is to tell people of any faith that they are banned from practicing wherever they want. That it’s their faith that drove planes into American buildings—good, Christian buildings.

How the fuck dare you.

This isn't over

CC photo by Flickr user Brian Finifter

With the Senate passing the House’s bill with fixes to the health care reform package, and the House ready to take it up tonight (and likely pass it tonight as well), it almost feels like this long, national nightmare is over.

It’s not. Not by a long shot.

You see, while this health care bill does not take over one-sixth of the economy, as its critics may speciously claim, it is gigantic, and it does touch a great number of sections of the U.S. budget. If you remember your civics correctly, you’ll note that the Congress votes on budgets at least once a year. That means, clearly, that every part of this health care bill, nay, law is subject to the whims of future Congresses. To think that every piece will remain intact in its original form until 2018, when the last parts of it take effect, is nonsensical. Of course, future compromises will occur, parts may end up redacted, and other parts may end up stronger. Will the excise tax actually kick in in 2018? That will be up to that Congress to decide. Will a public option come back to the table? It could at any time, although probably only if the Democrats open a large majority again, which is unlikely anytime soon.

This law will need to be defended every year. Hopefully, it can be strengthened over time. Hopefully, it can be made better. Hopefully, it not be destroyed over countless efforts to compromise, to water down, or (altogether unlikely) repeal. Because this is important.

Now, I do have a dog in this race. My mother is self-employed and does suffer from a pre-existing condition. In her state, there is only one health insurance company, and she’s been denied. With this bill, she can not only finally be protected in case something befalls her, but the policy will be affordable, and she’ll be eligible for subsidies.

In the words of a man who’s certainly turned phrases more eloquently—but never as honestly—, “This is a big fucking deal.”

So, in the words of another man who could turn a phrase better than most, alive or passed on, this can be said, but this time with the sense of cautious victory: “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

A two-party system

If the recent debate over health care reform has taught us anything, it is that the U.S. does still have a functional two-party system. The two parties, however, are not the Democrats and Republicans, but the Democrats and the Democrats.

This is not to suggest that his is necessarily a bad thing—for the Democratic Party or America. The Republicans may have a substantial 41-member minority in the Senate, but being tied to their strategy of obstruction, just saying no, and refusing to cooperate or even compromise, have rendered themselves utterly and completely irrelevant. Consequently, the two teams within the Democratic Party are playing the only game in town.

It is important for democracy that there be discussion with varying viewpoints. Results do not necessarily need to be bipartisan, but the process should be. As such, single-party states are almost inherently anti-democratic; see: Franco’s Spain, the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, etc. Parties with no opposition easily fall into corruption, or, even in the best of cases, they fall into ideological stasis (run out of new ideas), because they are not challenged. In effect, a party monopoly does, in fact, resemble an economic monopoly (and the resulting maxim that competition is healthy). So, while many do support their party of choice, most also would not want their party to have absolute control. Luckily, the Democratic Party, having grown larger and more diverse due to two generous election cycles, have offered an alternate party to the Republicans, within the Republican’s old ideological space.

Continue reading A two-party system